Are we already halfway through June? Time flies by for horror fans when you’re coasting through another good year for the genre. In 2019, we’ve seen a horror movie defy the “January Jinx”. We’ve already gotten Jordan Peele’s follow-up to Get Out, and we still have It: Chapter Two and Midsommar to look forward to. Not surprisingly, then, narrowing down the list to five horror movies is no simple task. Some great horror movies are notably absent including, Happy Death Day 2U, The Head Hunter, and The Wind. Of course, we’ve had a few disappointments. I’m looking at you The Silence and Pet Sematary. Though I have missed a few releases, here’s my best crack at 2019’s five best horror movies up to June.
5 – Braid
Mitzi Peirone’s psycho-thriller, Braid, probably flew under a lot of horror fans’ radars. Seeped in bright Giallo colours, Braid is a visually stylish thriller. Yet it’s also a remarkably restrained effort, more cerebral than visceral. But it’s still punctuated with some shocking violence. Up-and-coming genre ‘Scream Queen’ Madeline Brewer (Cam) turns in another fantastic performance. Most importantly, Braid features smart, suspenseful story-telling. Petrione shows, rather than tells. Its ambiguous ending instantly elevates Braid above the majority of indie horror. Though it’s not for all tastes, Braid is unquestionably a stylish psycho-horror thriller.
4 – Escape Room
Big, dumb, and, most importantly, fun. Yes, Escape Room was a January horror release. And we all know January is traditionally a cinematic dumping ground. In addition, Escape Room is clearly popcorn escapist entertainment. But guess what? It all works. Director Adam Robitel (Insidious: The Last Key) keeps the improbable action moving briskly. Like the early Saw movies, there’s a fun inventiveness to the movie’s death traps. Throw in some genuine white-knuckle suspense, a strong cast, and a final nod to a sequel, and Escape Room broke the January glass ceiling. Consider me signed up for any follow-up.
3 – The Perfection
To date, Netflix has offered two outstanding horror efforts in 2019. First, there was the wonderfully eclectic Velvet Buzzsaw and, more recently, my Number 3 choice, The Perfection. Apparently, the world of art is brutal. If you’ve watched enough horror movies, there’s not a lot surprises. But The Perfection is the rare movie that keeps its audience guessing about its final destination. Its story starts in one place, leaving you fairly confident in where it will end. Yet no sooner than you than you think you have a handle on the story, The Perfection abruptly changes course. With some uncomfortably grotesque body horror and winning performances across the board, The Perfection was a pleasant surprise from Netflix.
2 – The Hole in the Ground
Irish horror movie, The Hole in the Ground, could easily have been just another ‘creepy kids’ thriller. Fortunately, The Hole in the Ground is atmospheric and visually haunting enough to distinguish itself from similar movies. Director Lee Cronin keeps the story-telling tight and spreads out several effective scares. But where The Hole in the Ground truly rises above more derivative efforts is with its open ending. Things finish on a note that make you question everything you think you’ve just watched. So yes, more questions are raised, than answered. As a result, you’re left with an unsettled feeling once the credits have finished rolling.
1 – Us
No sophomore jinx here. Halfway through 2019, and Jordan Peele’s Us is clearly the best of the year to date. With his second directorial feature, Peele has given the horror genre something completely unique. Trust me, the trailers probably only contain about a small window of what’s in the movie. As a result, you’re taken on an original horror ride that unexpectedly twists on more than one occasion. To his credit, Peele shows a remarkable balance between mainstream horror film-making and art-house ambitions. Us is atmospheric, funny, and ‘jump’ scary. Yet it’s also thematically rich, challenging you with its ambiguous subtext.